May 26th, 2011
11:28 AM ET
Actress Julie Dawn Cole was 12 when she was cast as bratty Golden Ticket winner Veruca Salt in the classic 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
The movie is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and Cole has just released a book entitled "I Want it Now!" The scrap book-style memoir features Cole's memories from the set and loads of details that will satisfy even the most die-hard "Wonka" nerd's sweet tooth.
CNN spoke to Cole, who gave us gobs of sweet details about on-set crushes, her dislike of chocolate (say it ain't so!), unlikely "Wonka" fans, saved mementos, and of course - Oompa Loompas!
CNN: What are among the most common questions you get from fans?
Julie Dawn Cole: Was the river really chocolate? And the answer to that is, well, it was a kind of chocolate drinking powder but it had been hanging around on the set for two or three weeks and very often it was sort of stinky and smelly. And it had a boat track running through it and all sorts of people wandering through it in wellies [British slang for rain boots]. I met Ozzy Osbourne a few years ago and that was the one thing he said, "Was the river really chocolate?"
Another question is, "Where did you go to when you went down the chute?" The answer to that is I unceremoniously landed on some cardboard boxes and a couple of mattresses. So I didn't go anywhere exciting. They also ask me what the Oompa Loompas were like. And, of course, they were great fun. We didn't see them as little guys in orange faces and green hair. They were just guys we worked with who showed up in the morning in normal get-up.
CNN: Did you save any mementos from the set?
JDC: I did save my Everlasting Gobstopper but I sold it about eight years ago. I gather that it’s popping up at various auctions these days. I sold it before its price reached the dizzying heights of today. But I did save my original shooting script and the book I had the entire cast sign and a golden ticket and a Scrumdiddlyumptious bar. Unfortunately, I ate most of the chocolate inside and only have the wrappers now.
CNN: So the chocolate bars were real?
JDC: Yes. Mostly Hershey bars.
CNN: Can you tell us more about your Everlasting Gobstopper? Was it really candy?
JDC: It wasn't candy. It's made from - if you can imagine - sort of molded plastic; something similar to what you would get in a lid on a takeaway cup of coffee.
CNN: A couple of us recalled that the Oompa Loompas terrified us as children! Do you get that a lot?
JDC: A lot of people were. They were creepy. But I don't see them like that. I see them by their first names - Rusty, Albert, Malcolm... and to me they were just my friends. There was one that was quite a bit older than the other ones and he used to get quite irritated. And I have to say it's quite funny seeing an old Oompa Loompa being cross with a young Oompa Loompa. (Laughs)
There was a time when they were quite naughty, and they were quite prone to pranks. They once took everyone's shoes - at the time in these business hotels you would leave your shoes outside your room for cleaning, and the Oompa Loompas took every guest's shoes, tied the laces all together and dumped them in the lobby of the hotel. So the next morning all these businessmen came out and found a) no shoes and b) their shoes tied together in a giant jumble in the lobby!
CNN: That's a good prank. Did the fruit wallpaper really taste like candy?
JDC: (Laughs) No. They did paint it somewhat with a bit of a jelly but they also had to paint my tongue with a powder to make it look red. So I had to keep my tongue out of my mouth because it was that horrible powdery thing and you just desperately wanted to rinse your mouth.
CNN: Have you ever been to a real candy factory?
JDC: I did go to one of the chocolate factories in the UK. It was disappointing. Not at all magical! And I thought, "What a dull place to work." Of course, as a child, I did not like chocolate.
CNN: You didn't like chocolate?! So during filming did you eat something instead, or did you just force yourself to eat it for the sake of the movie?
JDC: The only time [during filming] I had to eat it was when I smashed open a watermelon in the "Pure Imagination" room. And, yes, I did have to eat this sort of chocolate goo. I don't know what it was, but it was disgusting. That's real acting for you! (Laughs)
CNN: Have you grown to like chocolate?
JDC: Well, you can't be a grown-up woman and not like chocolate. (Laughs) But back then I didn't like bars of chocolate or anything that was chocolate-flavored - chocolate cake, chocolate muffins, chocolate cookies... yuck! I still don't eat chocolate cake or cookies. I don't like it.
CNN: We heard that there was a rivalry between you and Denise Nickerson (Violet) over Peter Ostrum (Charlie). Any truth to that?
JDC: Well, you know, we were 13 and he was 13 and he was the only available male, really. But we both had a crush on him... it was sort of an unspoken or unwritten rule that we kind of took it in turns with her day and my day. And we're talking nothing more sinister than just standing next to him. But he was oblivious to any of this. If I mention it to him now he goes absolutely scarlet.
CNN: What do remember about working with Gene Wilder?
JDC: Gene was brilliant. Looking back on it now as an adult, it must've been a pain in the backside to have five kids clamoring all over him all the time and vying for his attention but he was very patient. He didn't have a trailer and he didn't go disappear. He sat around on the set and entertained us all. For my 13th birthday, he arranged for a color photographer to come on-set and take stills all day which he gave to me for my birthday present. In those days most of the stills would've been black and white, so that was my lasting present from him.
CNN: Is it true that you filmed your "I Want it Now" musical number on your actual 13th birthday?
JDC: Well, it took more than a day to film the entire sequence but the day I was doing all of the smashing-up was on my birthday. So they all sang "Happy Birthday" to me, gave me a chocolate cake - Yuck! - and shoved me down the chute.
CNN: Have you had any interesting encounters with fans?
JDC: It never ceases to amaze me. There are all sorts of celebrities who are in awe of it, which is quite weird. I'll be sitting there thinking, "Oh, there's so-and-so" and then it'll turn out they're big fans of the movie and the tables will get turned a bit. Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne are big fans and I hear that Marilyn Manson is. And, of course, there was a band called Veruca Salt which, I assume, has to be some sort of tribute. And just a few days ago I went into Dylan's Candy Bar (in New York City) and they were playing my song on a loop.
CNN: How did you find out that Ozzy Osbourne was a fan?
JDC: A friend of mine was directing a music video and I was like, "Oh, can I come along and hangout?" And my friend introduced me as the one who played Veruca and the video ground to a halt and Sharon was going, "No way! Oh, Ozzy, do you know who this is?" And Ozzy shambled over and we had a 30-minute discussion about the film while the music video crew was tapping their feet as Ozzy asked all his questions. And when the video broke for the day, everyone else left and Sharon said to me, "Oh, you can come in the kitchen, you're family."
CNN: What did you think of Tim Burton's "Wonka" remake?
JDC: Well, it's a very different film. And I think there's room for both. But what it did do was trigger a debate and I think that's where we should leave it. I find that most people are quite partisan. I thought our film would disappear when the Tim Burton one was released but, no, we're still all here!
CNN: Are you still in touch with the other actors from the film?
JDC: We did lose touch for years until a fan tracked us all down for a reunion in New Jersey in 1997. So for almost 30 years I hadn't seen any of them until we all met up. Of course, this is the 40th anniversary. Who would have thought it, eh? It wasn't until a reunion in 1997 that I realized how big it was and how big it still is.
CNN: We've heard that you don't make any residuals from the film.
JDC: No. In fact, I had to buy my own DVD of the movie. (Laughs) But it's opened up some great doors for me and I've had some great experiences. I've traveled and been to some amazing places purely because of the movie.
CNN: What are you up to now?
JDC: I'm now a psychotherapist and work at a hospice working with families and children suffering from a life-limiting illness.
CNN: Are your own children fans of the movie?
JDC: I think so. When their friends find out about it, I'm kind of "cool mom" for a couple of weeks. My children are a little older now but my daughter's university friends still go nuts for it.
What about you? Is "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" a family favorite? What are your favorite "Wonka" scenes and/or lines of dialogue? Conversely, were you terrified of the Oompa Loompas? How about the twisted, psychedelic boat scene?
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